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3 April 2003 Edition

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TDs back family facing deportation

BY CATHAL Ó CLÉIRIGH


Concerned citizens picketed the Dáil on Tuesday to protest the deportation of Elizabeth Onasanwo and her family to Nigeria. Elizabeth, a widow, and her five children, could face deportation to Nigeria, which they left five years ago to escape terrible conditions and human rights abuses.

Elizabeth and her family have settled happily in Ranelagh in Dublin's southside. Her children, whose ages range between 6 and 20, attend school locally. The deportation order has led to Elizabeth having a nervous breakdown and she is currently receiving full time hospital treatment. She fears that if she is returned to Nigeria, she could be subjected to female circumcision, a brutal form of genital mutilation. Her own sister having died from such a procedure.

Among the protesters outside the Dáil on Tuesday were Sinn Féin TDs Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin , Arthur Morgan and Aengus Ó Snodnaigh, and Independant TD Finian McGrath. Arthur Morgan told An Phoblacht that "the human factor must be taken into account rather than the legal factor. Humanity demands that Elizabeth Onasanwo and her family be allowed stay in the country, and in the opinion of the general public, they are more than welcome to."

In a press realeas , Ó Snodaigh, Sinn Féin Dáil spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights, said: "We have a number of serious human rights concerns about Nigeria, and the practice of Female Genital Mutilation is among them. The Onasanwo girls, aged 18 and 6, face this procedure if returned to Nigeria. Not all women and girls survive these procedures. Those who do rarely escape both immediate and long-term health complications. The girls' mother quite rightly fears for her children's health and safety if forced to return to Nigeria and has sought refuge in Ireland in order to protect them.

"Female Genital Mutilation is an issue of women's human rights. Article 2 ofthe 1993 UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the1995 Beijing Declaration have defined Female Genital Mutilation as an act of violence against women. Arguably, the Nigerian state is unable or unwilling to protect girls and women at risk. Ireland, therefore, has a duty to uphold women's human rights in this case and protect the Onasanwo girls from this fate.

"Fear of persecution on the grounds of gender is a recognised basis for claiming Convention refugee status. At the very least, the threat these girls face should allow the family to remain in Ireland on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. Regardless of the outcome of the appeal, it is within the Minister's discretionary power to allow the Onasanwo family to remain here and Sinn Féin, therefore, once again calls on the Minister to reverse any deportation plans in this case."

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An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1
Ireland
 

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